Homeland Security

State Dept. Confirms PJ Media Reporting on American Journalist Arrested in Turkey

(Kyodo) ==Kyodo

On August 8, I reported here at PJ Media on American journalist Lindsey Snell, who had reportedly escaped from Jabhat al-Nusra/Jabhat Fateh al-Sham custody in Syria only to be arrested when she arrived back in Turkey earlier this month. No other American media outlet reported on this story — until now.

Snell’s biography notes she has worked for MSNBC, VICE News, ABC News, the Discovery Channel, and Amnesty International, among others.

State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed her arrest during his daily briefing today, stating that she is being held on charges of “violating a military zone”:

QUESTION: Do you have any information about a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Turkey?

MR KIRBY: Who was arrested in Turkey? Yes. I can confirm that U.S. citizen Lindsey Snell was detained in Turkey on the 7th of August, 2016. She is currently being held in a prison facility in Hatay Province. I believe that’s how you say it. Consular officers from the consulate in Adana visited Ms. Snell most recently on the 26th of this month and are providing all possible consular assistance. The embassy and the department are following this case closely. State Department officials have been in contact with Turkish Government officials regarding this case.

QUESTION: Can you spell her name?

MR KIRBY: Lindsey. L-i-n-d-s-e-y. Snell. S-n-e-l-l.

Did you have more?

QUESTION: Yeah. Is – was the arrest at all related to her profession as a journalist or in any case – any way associated with that?

MR KIRBY: What I – what we understand is that she has been charged with violating a military zone, but I can’t speak to her reasons for being in Syria, for traveling there. I can’t speak to that. What I can tell you is that we’ve been informed she was charged with violating a military zone.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that she entered a military zone that she wasn’t supposed to, or —

MR KIRBY: That would be my interpretation of that, Arshad. But that’s a better question for Turkish authorities since they’re the ones that issued the charges.

QUESTION: Did you say she was arrested in Syria and is held in Turkey? I’m sorry, I just didn’t hear the details exactly.

MR KIRBY: She was —

QUESTION: I thought you said she was —

MR KIRBY: She’s been – she was arrested – detained in Turkey —

QUESTION: Okay.

MR KIRBY: — and has been charged with violating a military zone.

QUESTION: I thought the word “Syria” came out of your mouth, and I just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t —

MR KIRBY: Yes. Yes, I did. As I understand it, she journeyed to Turkey from Syria, and I – what my answer was, I couldn’t speak for why she was in Syria in the first place. The question was was she doing the business of journalism, and I don’t know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

As I noted, PJ Media was the only U.S. media outlet to report on her detention by Turkish authorities.

This bizarre incident began earlier this month when Snell began posting to her Twitter account that she was being held by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the recently rebranded Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria:

Snell reported on her escape on her Facebook page:

A little over two weeks ago, Jabhat Fateh al Sham (or as they were then known, Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate) “arrested” (kidnapped) me. They did this in spite of the fact that I had permission to film in their areas, that I was staying with the family of one of their recent martyrs (it had been his dying wish that I come to Syria to see his family after he passed), AND that I am myself a Muslim.

Two days ago, with the help of an incredible, selfless badass, I managed to escape.

I must apologize to my friends and colleagues for all the pain and worry this caused you. I love you all, and I appreciate every effort made to secure my release.

Because of my unique situation, I was able to convince my captors to give me the use of a phone…which ultimately let me plan my escape, but which also let me document much of my captivity in photos and videos. (And I bet “don’t give prisoners phones!” will make it into the new Jabhat Fateh al Sham employee handbook.) It’s a crazy story. A cave prison (the previous tenant of my cell had marked his days in residence in blood on the walls), masked villains, motorcycle escapes, and disguises. I can’t wait to share the details.

I also got my equipment and footage back intact-and I was even able to interview my rescuer. Allah bless him. And alhamdullilah always.

But then there were reports that Snell had been rescued by Turkish special forces.

Hürriyet Daily News reported:

A female intelligence agent from the United States has been saved by Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) soldiers after a two-day operation on the Syrian border, according to a report. Drones and helicopters participated in the operation to save the agent, who had been wounded in Syria.

Two U.S. helicopters landed in a village in the Yayladağı district of the southern province of Hatay on Aug. 5, prompting locals to call officials and report the landing. The Hatay Governor’s Office responded by saying that they were aware of the incident, daily Hürriyet reported on Aug. 7.

Anadolu Agency then reported on her detention in Turkey:

A U.S. citizen was remanded in custody for trying to enter Turkey illegally from Syria, Hatay Governor said Sunday.

Ercan Topaca told Anadolu Agency, Snell Lindsteyler [sic], a journalist, was detained in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay’s Altinozu district near the Syria border.

“A U.S. journalist was captured while she was trying to cross the border illegally; she was taken to court and remanded. The trial phase is ongoing. For now, we do not know if she is a spy or not,” Governor Topaca said.

Following the State Department’s confirmation of PJ Media’s reporting from earlier this month, now other Western media outlets including BBC News and NBC News are reporting on Snell’s arrest.

This strange situation comes at a low ebb in U.S. relations with its NATO ally. Undoubtedly Snell’s detention, along with that of a NASA employee also detained in Turkey earlier this month, will come up when President Obama meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the Group of 20 meetings in China this week.

PJ Media will continue to report on this situation as developments unfold.